Tamera Young: Former Laney HS star finds success on and off the WNBA courts ("1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Tamera Young's record-setting college basketball career and ten-year WNBA career may not have happened, had it not been for a decision made by her older sister when the two were teenagers. Tamera started playing the game outside her parents' house in Wilmington and at Girls Inc, an after-school program in the city. Tamera and her sister Nikia both played AAU basketball, but when their team in Wilmington folded, they wanted to join a team in Raleigh. That's when a gesture of love kept Tamera's development on track.
"My mother couldn't afford for both of us to play with the traveling, it was just a lot more expensive," Tamera says. "My sister said 'Mom, since Tamera loves the game more than I do, I'll just sit out and let her do it'. So my sister sat out and I continued to play AAU. I'm always forever grateful for that, it's a blessing. The sacrifices that my mother made, to put the money aside for me to the have the opportunity to play."
Along with her skills, Tamera's height grew dramatically as she entered Laney High School. A growth spurt took her to 6'2", and she went from playing point guard to forward and center. Tamera became a star on Coach Sherry Tynes' Lady Buccaneer teams, leading Laney to Mid-Eastern Conference championships in her junior and senior seasons. Despite her success, Tamera was not highly-recruited as a college prospect. She talks about the decision to attend James Madison University of the Colonial Athletic Association at 11:15 of the podcast.
"I remember playing in the East-West All-Star Game, and at that time I had already signed to James Madison," Tamera remembers. "Even then were still college coaches didn't know who I was. I won MVP for that basketball game, and I remember the coach for (University of North) Carolina asked one of my family members 'who is this kid?' People even then didn't know who I was, but they knew I won MVP and I guess they saw something they hadn't seen before."
Coaches and fans that did not know who Tamera Young was, would soon learn about her talents. Under the guidance of James Madison Head Coach Kenny Brooks, Tamera took her game to new heights as a member of the Lady Dukes. She made the All-CAA first team as a sophomore, setting the first of her many school records for points, three-point field goals made and double-doubles (double-digit points and rebounds in a game). The prospect of Tamera playing professional basketball began to grow.
"I remember Coach Brooks telling me if I met him halfway, he could help me get to the WNBA," she says. "It was always in the back of my mind, because I loved the game so much, and I knew that after college I wanted to still play."
According to jmusports.com, here is a list of the school or league records Tamera held after her college career:
- CAA and school career scoring record (2,121)
- Second player in school history with more than 1,000 rebounds (1,127)
- School record for points in a game (38)
- School record season points (693)
- School record season scoring average (20.4)
- School-record career scoring average (16.7)
- School-record career steals (275)
- School-record career starts (125)
- School-record 44 consecutive games in double figures
- School career record 112 games scoring in double figures
- School record 1,428 career points by a junior;
- School sophomore records for points, field goals attempted, three-point field goals made and attempted
On April 9, 2008, Tamera's dream became of playing in the Women's National Basketball Association became reality. She was taken with the eighth pick of the first round by the expansion Atlanta Dream franchise, becoming the first JMU player drafted into the league. Tamera talks at 21:25 of the podcast about how nervous she was on draft night waiting for her name to be called.
"The waiting, my nerves were just going crazy, because you don't know actually (when it will happen)," she says. "You hear things, there are predictions. But you don't know exactly when your name is going to be called until it's called. The night that my name was called, I was shocked."
Basketball then became a job for the rookie from Wilmington. It wasn't easy. Tamera was used to starting games, playing a lot of minutes, and winning. In her first season with the Dream, Tamera started just 15 of 33 games, and played just 22 minutes a game. Her 7.3 scoring average was well below what she was used to contributing, and the team finished with a 4-30 record.
"I did a lot of shopping that year," Tamera says with a laugh. "Retail therapy. It was a big difference, you know, coming from winning, coming from playing all the time and having fun. Losing isn't fun. No matter what you're doing, no matter how much you love the game. Losing isn't fun."
Tamera's career took another turn after that first season, when the Dream traded her to the Chicago Sky. Things started slowly with her new team, but in 2013 the team went 24-10 and won the WNBA's Eastern Conference championship. The next season, the Sky made a second straight trip to the WNBA Finals, with Tamera starting all nine playoff games and coming up big for her team at a crucial moment. In game 2 of the Eastern Conference Championship series against the Indiana Fever, Tamera hit a last second shot to force overtime. The Sky ended up winning the game and advancing to the finals. Tamera talks about her time in Chicago and that highlight at 27:55 of the podcast.
During the 2017 season, Chicago traded Tamera back to Atlanta. She finished her tenth season and is currently a free agent, looking to sign with a team for 2018. During the offseason, Tamera is busy as CEO of her clothing line, TY1. Tamera launched the company in November 2016, and talks about becoming a businesswoman during the podcast.
"I didn't want to only focus on sports gear," she says. "I also wanted to focus on different lifestyle clothing that you could wear outside of working out or training as well. It's interesting. It's something that I enjoy and that I love."
In 2015, Tamera and former New Hanover HS star Kris Clark started an annual charity basketball event at the Martin Luther King Center in Wilmington. Proceeds from their Kill Cancer 3-on-3 Tournament benefit the American Cancer Society. Both athletes have a personal reason for donating their time and energy to the cause.
"It's something that I dedicate to my father who died from cancer, and Kris dedicated to his father who passed from cancer as well," Tamera says. "It makes us feel good to be in a situation where we can do something to make our fathers proud, but also do something for our city as well."
Tamera Young says she has always lived by the motto of "prove doubters wrong". Even to this day, she says there are people who second guess whether she can get the job done. Tamera has used that as motivation to succeed, both on and off the basketball court.
You can listen to the entire interview with Tamera Young on the free "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast:
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